Things Worked out Because of the Support I got

Labour market insertion
“Berwa means looking good or good looking”. That is what 35-year-old Aloysie Muhawenimana named her salon, a business that she built from the bottom up. The wife and mother of two tells her story of how the project ‘Promoting Market-Oriented Skills Training (PROMOST) in the Great Lakes Region, implemented by Swisscontact and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), has helped her achieve some of her life goals. 

Her interest in hairdressing started close to home, from her time spent in the neighbourhood.

“There was a lady there who braided hair. I started observing how she performed her duties, the many clients she would get and could imagine the large amount of money she was minting. Later, the local government decided to build a small centre to help the youth of that sector who were out-of-school and aspired to learn different trades. By that time, I was married and had a child. I asked my husband to support me, and he was able to pay for the first month of fees.”

Soon after, in 2015, Swisscontact came in looking to recruit trainees. “They approached the local authorities to select candidates. They were informed of the Youth Empowerment Centre, and I was one of the first to be picked to be part of the program.”

“I would diligently attend the training sessions each morning which would run for most of the day till three in the afternoon. During this time, I had to learn to manage my time and balance my training needs and those of my home. I would wake up early in the morning, clean the house, prepare breakfast and my son for school before we left the house together. When school was done for the day, he would go to his grandmother’s house and wait for me to pick him up as the training centre was only about ten minutes away.’’

‘’Together with four other students, our instructor taught us the basics of hairdressing using dolls. These skills were an addition to what I already knew and had learned from my neighbour. I also learned how to do manicures and pedicures.”

After three months, Aloysie also underwent entrepreneurship training. “I learned three important things: teamwork, you know, how to work with others, saving skills and how to draft a business plan. I learned what to do if I needed a financial institution to give me a loan or sponsorship.”

Support from Her Husband

Aloysie insists that without her supportive partner, she would have faced many challenges. “He provided food and made sure everything was available for me in the evening when I returned from training. He earned money through his bodaboda (motorbike ferrying) business to cover our expenses and helped with other tasks that are culturally considered female duties like cooking and cleaning.”

“After training, my husband asked me what my next step was. He knew that I didn’t want to sit around at home like I used to. After a lengthy discussion, he offered to stop running his business, sell his motorbike and fully invest in helping me establish a salon. He sold the motorbike for CHF 637 and invested it in the salon business.”

Aloysie and her husband got straight to it. They decided to work together and were focused on being successful. As they couldn’t afford to buy all the equipment and furniture at that time, they carried a traditional carpet and chairs from their house so that their clients would be comfortable while being attended to. She started by braiding and would save as much as she could from the earnings. She bought a dryer, blow dryer and other essentials needed to expand her service offering. 

“I taught my husband how to efficiently handle after-braiding services like curling, oiling and hot water finishes. He has now become an expert and has even learnt how to shave men’s hair and beards. At the end of each day, we calculate the money we’ve earned together and plan our next move. We realize that there is no such thing as a male or a female job. We are all equals and work our hardest to provide for our family,’’ the mother of now two commented.

Diversifying Her Skills

Aloysie explains that after the initial training and the entrepreneurship follow up, Swisscontact called and hosted her and others in Kigali to upgrade their skills. “I added dread locking to my skills. Presently, I work strictly with African hair, but only because I have not had the opportunity to diversify my skills further. I would love to learn how to work with different textures.’’

Because of her training and experience, Swisscontact attached two trainees to her so she could share her knowledge. “I trained them for twelve months. They worked the first eight months without compensation as I was teaching them the basics. After that, they were able to perform their tasks to my quality standards and began earning some money. To date, I have employed one of them.”

Small Actions Have Led to Growth

Aloysie Muhawenimana has used every opportunity to build her salon and make her life better. Things are going well. Her salon, decorated with pictures of celebrities and adorned with the necessary hairdressing gadgets, has grown into a thriving business. “Things worked out because I had support from not only my husband but also my loyal clients.”

‘’I can proudly say that I make just enough to sustain my business, pay rent of CHF 11 a month for the salon space, save with a bank and two saving groups,’’ remarks Aloysie.

Her savings came in handy when there was an electric short circuit that razed down her salon and she needed to pay for the damages. Together, she and her husband have been able to build their own home and stop renting, buy a cow, and put money into a small forest which they cultivate to sell wood.

Aloysie’s plans are to branch out and open more hairdressing venues in the future, and she may have someone already budding to help her do just that. “I don’t see my son having any interest, but whenever my daughter comes to the salon, she finds the dolls in the cupboard and immediately starts braiding their hair.” With her husband already involved, it looks like "Berwa" may turn out to be a family affair.

Promoting Market-Oriented Skills Training in the Great Lakes Region

PROMOST (Promoting Market-Oriented Skills Training) in the Great Lakes Region is currently in its eighth year of operations. It is about to round up the third phase of the 12-year SDC programme that aims to support the Government of Rwanda’s efforts to improve access to, as well as the quality and relevance of, its TVET system. The project has a regional dimension and has extended its activities to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. PROMOST is financed by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) and implemented by Swisscontact.